The Anderzoo Homeschool

Adventures from first-time homeschoolers

The Big VA Trip of 2009 February 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 12:57 pm

Get ready. This is a monster post. Our family trip to VA (my homeland) last December was a huge undertaking and I admit I was very scared that we weren’t going to make it there and back with everything and everyone intact. This would be the first time my kiddos had flown on a plane. It would be the first time I’d ever flown with a 1-year-old. Turns out, this trip would have a lot of firsts. Note: These are snaps. No real editing in the pics. I have a bazillion pics from the trip. I wish I had taken more.

We intentionally landed in Baltimore so we could take the kids to see the harbor. We were SO excited to be there and so excited to feel the cold. We were hearing rumors that it might snow. I can tell you that we weren’t quite prepared for how cold it actually was…Texas has turned me into a wimp. We had lunch at Miss Shirley’s – highly recommend…perfect warming comfort food after a long plane ride and a chilly walk.  Then we hopped in our cars and headed to D.C. The above images were snapped inside of our ultra-hip rooms at The Hotel Helix. Okay, I’ll admit it…it may have been a little too funky, but the kids sure loved it (especially the boys’ loft/bunk with their own TV), and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful and kind to our rambunctious bunch.

Hanging out in the Helix lounge, equipped with complimentary wine, hot chocolate, and Guitar Hero.

I couldn’t sleep that night…I was so excited to get to take the kids around D.C. the next day and show them all the places I loved as a little girl. Unfortunately, I got a glimpse of the weather report just before I went to sleep and it didn’t look good. Basically, the biggest snowstorm in 20 years was headed right to us and scheduled to hit the next day. (Little did we all know that would be the start of an epic snowfall in NoVa this season). In order to avoid being stuck in a hotel room with three antsy kids for Lord knows how long, we decided that morning to cut our trip short (so long fun-filled day in D.C. and so long to my Xpressions mini photo sessions I was supposed to do).  My mom and sis started to make their way to Richmond and we stayed behind to take the kids to the Museum of Natural History (we had to do *something* D.C. in D.C.).

Dinos = a hit. The Washington Monument = not so much. The Nature’s Best Photography exhibit = amazing. But the coolest part of D.C.? The automated shopping cart escalator at Target. We could have played with that thing all day. Except we had to try to outrun a massive snowstorm. So, back in the car and off to Richmond:

Evidently, everyone else was trying to get out of D.C., too because traffic was INSANE. We really thought we were going to beat the storm. Much to our dismay, our 2.5 hour drive turned into a 6 hour drive in blinding snow with very tired and very hungry kiddos. It was very, very scary. I was never so happy to turn into my blessed Uncle Dave and Aunt Shirley’s drive…their Christmas lights all aglow and the house a safe, familiar beacon in the dark night.

Every night, the cat would curl up with Uncle Dave like this. Not a cat fan, myself, but this was too cute.

Taking my children to Uncle Dave and Aunt Shirley’s house was simply magical. This place that I loved so much as a child. This place that embodies all things family, holiday, and Christmastime. I still tear up thinking about sitting together at the dinner table the next day, warm and safe, eating a hearty meal and watching the snow fall outside. Every morning the kiddos would come downstairs and sit on the bench in front of the fireplace, just as the generation before them once did. The kids made cookies in Aunt Shirley’s familiar kitchen, just like my sister and I did when we were little girls. And when the kids went to sleep, the adults laughed and talked and visited, just like I always wished I could do when I was a young girl.

And the SNOW! Oh, the SNOW! How lucky we were that it actually snowed like this (not really that common for this area to get this kind of snow so early)! We had been telling the kids they *might* see snow when we went to VA, and here it was…beautiful, perfect, white, and plenty. The boys had an absolute BLAST. Amry, however, decided that her jacket was too poofy and she didn’t like hat having hair.

Even Twink (who magically joined us in VA) sneaked out to play in the white stuff, himself.

Playing with the cousins.

I could have watched the boys have snowball fights all day long. They were in heaven!

On one of the last days, we met up with my good friend and fellow photographer, Patti, in Williamsburg for her Xpressions session. Such a BEAUTIFUL family and we had so much fun!

I wish we could have stayed longer to play in Williamsburg, but it was so danged cold. And all my boys really wanted to do was go play in the snow some more:

The hubs – poised and ready for attack. I love this pic of him. He looks so valiant.

All-in-all, it was an incredibly successful trip. All I really wanted was for my children to experience new places and to create wonderful memories. I believe we did just that.


Storytime with Aunt Nee Nee

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 11:19 am


Is it 2010, yet? January 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 5:12 pm

[Note: started this post back in November. Notice it’s now Jan. 1.  That’s telling. Also, the hubs is now in on the blogging, so he’s helping write posts now.  So cool to see things from his POV.]

In general:

  • With the holiday season in full swing for my work, we have been just making it from day to day, but there is an end in sight!  Having Thanksgiving and Baby A’s 1st Birthday party behind us, we are so excited to finally get back to our routine.
  • Halloween & Pumpkin Patch
  • I’ve talked a lot about Starfall and I’ve recommended the free website to everyone I can.  Well, we just learned they have a curriculum so we took the plunge and purchased it. How fun to see all of these characters that my kids have followed for several years starring in more books and games and puzzles. It’s very well organized and so far, the boys have really enjoyed the materials. It’s a little below T’s level, but it’s a good jumping off point for his day’s work.
  • In December, we planned out our big trip to DC which marks several huge milestones for the kids – first plane ride, first time in a big city, the subway, perhaps some snow?, and loads and loads of seeing all of the places that awed and amazed me when I was a little girl.  And of course, getting to see family that we haven’t seen in years is going to be wonderful!
  • We’ve recently discovered these readers from National Geographic and our kids LOVE them! T can read them and they’re loaded with outstanding images and tons of interesting facts.  Highly recommend.  I’ll be purchasing a boatload of these for Christmas gifts.


  • Dictated his own story: “The Ramen that Talks” which has become a regular for bedtime stories now. Need to take some pics, but it’s better to hear the story in person.
  • Reading with ease now.  All of a sudden, it just clicked. No big deal. It makes me so giddy to catch him reading signs, menus, directions, etc. and not having to think twice about it.
  • Lost first tooth. Has a cute little lisp now.
  • Spent a week with his grandparents in South Texas.  Came home with a dozen new butterflies, and his first fishing story.


  • Switched his schedule at pre-school, so he’s back with some old “girlfriends.”  He was excited to report that Abby noticed his haircut.
  • Counted to 100 for the first time with minimal help.  Working on place value (ones and tens) and simple addition.
  • Logs is so eager and enthusiastic about life.  He finds joy and meaning in the smallest things.  For example, the Nat Geo for Little Kids magazine came in the mail, and he exclaimed, “For me! I can’t believe it finally came!”


  • Piano – the schedule was just getting to be too much, so we’ve put piano on hold for a while.
  • The rough and tumble nature of two intelligent, independent, and mule-headed boys who are 19 mos. apart.  Yikes!


  • Journal entries and teaching each other
  • Karate – can’t get over how much they’ve improved the control over their bodies in such a short time.
  • Preschool
  • Cooking together – the boys are getting really good at helping dad make meals.
  • Holiday tradition – Twink came back!
  • Monopoly has become a regular game in this house.
  • So has chess
  • Tractor work – they did a lot of land clearing in Nov/Dec. and it looks great.
  • Ft. Worth Botanic Garden – if you get the chance to go, go! Even better, see it in the fall with all of those amazing fall colors. The Japanese Garden was other-worldly. The beauty literally brought tears to my eyes.
  • Mom took the boys out for an East Austin adventure. We had so much fun taking in the colors, textures, and sounds of this urban, yet increasingly trendy part of town. As we were wondering around, we stumbled into Brocca Gallery. The very talented sculptor/painter Mr. Augusto welcomed us in and showed the boys his creations and how he made them. It was a lovely morning!

Goals for next month:

  • All three kiddos will be enrolled at Heartsong Music Together. I cannot recommend this program enough.
  • Starting swimming lessons again.
  • Going to try to find a t-ball program for the boys. They need more outside activities.

Now that it’s the end of October, October 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 5:40 am


I suppose I ought to update the blog, huh? Well, most of you that know me or any photographer out there can tell you that the fall is our busy season.  We’re doing well just to get everyone fed everyday around here at this point.  But, we’ve still been pretty busy with the business of learning (in spite of spending the last week with 4 out of our 5 family members sick with the flu):


In general:

  • While we’re having such amazing weather out here, we’re letting the boys play and explore outside as much as possible. They belong out there. Really, when we were all sick last week, half the battle was fighting to keep them inside to rest and recover.
  • They like to dig in the dirt and build various roads. Evidently, that road building is a big deal for them.
  • T has now roped L into collecting caterpillars/butterflies with him, so now we have a lovely collection of jars housing numerous creatures at varying stages of development.
  • We have the skin of our pet spider hanging out in the freezer. Always such a nice thing to see when I’m looking to find something for us for dinner.
  • Wait until you see the puppets the kids are working on for the puppet show for I Need My Monster! It’s pretty time-intensive, but ideally, we want to be ready to put on the puppet show for their friends by the end of the year.
  • Zoo trip was AMAZING!  Just thinking about it now makes me ache to do another field trip. It’s just tough this time of year to get out of the house because I’m working so much. But I’ve got to find a way to make it happen.


  • T cracked me up when we went into the butterfly exhibit at the zoo…the lady running the booth had no idea what she had gotten herself into when she asked if  he liked butterflies. The floodgates opened and she was hit with a barrage of things like, “Is that a Passion Flower?” “Oh look! A green malachite!” “Did you know the Blue Morpho is native to South America?”
  • We went for a walk the other night and I so enjoyed watching him survey “his land,” pointing out the different kinds of milkweed to his baby sister and I.
  • He loves playing chess with his dad these days.
  • He and his dad sat down to write a googol (misspelled above, sorry) and to demonstrate place value. WAY impressed that they actually finished it!
  • I think we’ve got a math wizard on our hands. Seriously, his understanding of numbers and the ability to see their relationships in his head intimidates me. He can add and subtract numbers with multiple digits with ease, knows his 10’s and 2’s times tables and is working on 5’s.  While I personally LOVED math, I’ve always struggled with “seeing” problems in my head…I have to write things down and see it.  But not T. He is very blessed in this department.
  • Now if only he approached reading with the same enthusiasm.  Funny thing, though, he seems to have no problem reading his butterfly field guides.


  • Thanks to your advice, I have the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD on its way. I hope this helps solidify letters and their meanings for him.
  • He’s entered this stage where he is SUPER sensitive and we’re dealing with that constantly. It’s very tough to get anything done when he runs off and pouts over something you didn’t even know you had done.
  • He’s way into rock and crystals which is nice because it lends itself to several fun collections and projects.
  • He can write very well. Didn’t realize this, but he can actually write his letters with greater ease than he can remember their names/sounds.


  • It’s the holiday season. It’s busy. It’s going to be busy.
  • Finding time to practice piano. Our teacher must really dislike us because we’re so bad about this. I think it’s mostly because Virge and I don’t know how to play, so we’re unsure as to how to “coach” the boys at home. Sigh.


  • When we got home from the zoo, the next day, the boys helped us come up with a list of all the animals we had seen and we classified them into various categories. They were really into it!
  • After we recovered from the yucky sickness, we spent a day cleaning the house. The boys each had jobs and they quite enjoyed the event. Unfortunately, I think the novelty would wear off if we tried to do this more than once a month.
  • Task cards: I posted a pic for everyone that asked. See? Nothing fancy…just little reminders of their daily tasks. Each day, each boy’s cards start out in the “to do” envelope. As they finish a task, the move that card into their “all done” envelope. Still going strong. They check their cards every night.


  • Need to head out to the pumpkin patch and pick out a big pumpkin we can carve out.
  • Which also reminds me it’s time to dig up all of our Halloween books for storytime at night.
  • We really want to try to make it back to Sea World before the season ends. Not much time. But we’ll see…
  • I want to try to spend more one on one time with L. He does much better behavior-wise when he get’s his “mommy time.”

The swing of things… September 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 10:02 pm


In general:

  • Built a compost bin – they helped from start to finish (counting out materials, measuring, even got to run the saw); they’re very into it…always saving things to put into the bin.
  • Wildflower Center trip – awesome! awesome! awesome! (see link to read more)
  • Started Heartsong Music classes with baby girl. If you have the opportunity to do this, I would highly recommend it! A group of mamas (sometimes dads and nannys and grandmas) sitting around singing, clapping, and playing instruments together with their babies/kids.  It’s just magic.  And you can apply the techniques in almost any situation with your children. Love it.
  • Finishing up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Boys have really been into it.  I missed a few chapters the other night and I was really impressed that T was able to give me a very accurate and concise synopsis.  We did go ahead and watch the movie even though we haven’t quite finished the book.  It was fun to see the kids make the connections from the movie to what we’ve read.  We all agreed that this version of the movie (Johnny Depp) was really close to the book.
  • We made up scavenger hunt game…a series of simple clues hidden throughout the house which led to a treat at the end.  T’s job was to read the clues. L’s job was to to read the numbers on the envelope.  They worked really well together.  Of course, before they even found the first clue, my little L found the TREATS! Doh!  Good move, mom.
  • The kids did a wonderful little birthday celebration for me.  They made some beautiful art pieces, baked brownies, and wrote out cards.
  • We’re meandering. Is that okay? Every day is a totally different adventure.


  • HUGE leap in his reading!  Huge!  When it’s not approached as a “chore” with him, he doesn’t seem to feel pressure.
  • Building words using wooden letters (playing with consonants and vowels and how vowels change the sounds)
  • I’m trying to leave him a sentence every day on the fridge
  • subtraction
  • built tank puzzle


  • We are noticing some real progress in number/letter recognition over the past few weeks.  Even in his writing (as evidenced by the “I’m Sorry” letters above (awwwwww).
  • started pre-K a few days a week – the boys need some apart time for sure
  • had his 4th B-day party.  I think that wore him out.  But he was such a gracious host.


  • Time. There just is not enough time to do all the things we want to do in a day. Seems like we get started on a project and then something comes up that we have to handle and poof, we’re on to the next task.
  • Schedule. This schedule is really tight.  Between karate, preschool, piano, and my work schedule, it’s definitely not as relaxed as I hoped it would be.


  • Boys are doing really well with their daily task cards.  They LOVE it, in fact. It’s great for them to see what they’ve accomplished and what they have yet to do.  Neither of them wants to have more “to do” cards than the other left at the end of the day.  It’s also been helpful that they get paid $1/ea. per day.  It’s an immediate reward.
  • Wildflower center trip was a huge success.
  • Karate and piano are going really well.

Goals for next time:

  • Art, art, more art!
  • Music – I want to start singing with the kids (like Heartsong) a couple times a week.
  • Art again…we need to get out to an art museum.

Into the ground – Caves and Gardens August 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 11:13 pm


In general:

  • built a cave out of blankets and talked about troglodytes, spelunkers, and hibernation; cave was complete with bats and spiders ;-)
  • watched Planet Earth on caves (love that show)
  • Trip to Inner Space Caverns
  • Sid the Science Kid (also a great show) and did demonstrations on breathing air; learned how to blow up balloons.
  • Made task cards to help boys remember *on their own* what they need to do each day (brush teeth, feed dogs, etc.); small things, but things they can be responsible for and track easily.
  • Started plowing for the fall garden
  • Started reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (one chapter per night)
  • Talked about the calendar and days of the week


  • addition – he can do simple addition problems on his own pretty well
  • sight words
  • waaaay into the garden; he’s by his dad’s side 24-7 throughout this whole process, planning, plowing, preparing


  • counting to 20
  • letter recognition – he’s getting better every day!
  • seeing patterns and finishing the sequence (used colored blocks to build patterns)
  • demonstrated/found opposites in the house
  • learned the words “she” and “he;” usually forgets to differentiate between the two


  • the 9 month old is very distracting
  • the boys tend to get all grumpy when we talk about doing “lessons.” I think we need to just DO and not make a big production out of it. I feel like setting aside “lesson” time is probably more for our benefit than theirs.
  • I *know* T can read.  I wish he wouldn’t get so difficult about it.
  • L tends to get frustrated at the slightest mistake.  Just have to learn to be very, very, very patient with him and not push him too far too quickly.


  • I’m very impressed with how the kids responded to the trip to Inner Space. They were enthralled and curious the entire time. They did a great job of drawing simple conclusions when asked questions about the cave (what kinds of animals might live there? why is it cooler down there?)
  • T is a math whiz. He just gets numbers.  Always has.
  • L thrives on one on one attention and constant praise/encouragement. Of course, he needs to be corrected when he’s wrong, but I think we need to work extra hard to make sure he’s not lost in the middle as the “middle child”
  • The garden is going to be an incredible learning tool for the boys.

In their words – Your favorite part of last week:

  • L – “Both caves”
  • T – “The cave we made at home”

Goals for next week:

  • Need more physical product. We do a lot of talking, but I’d like the boys to have a chance to make more physical things (art projects).
  • Garden beds built
  • L should be able to count to 20 comfortably
  • Start karate
  • T – subtraction and sight words
  • Plan plants for garden
  • Let boys try those vegetables/fruits that we plan to grow
  • Have boys paint signs for the garden



Opening Day August 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — anderzoohomeschool @ 4:03 pm


Well, technically, yesterday was opening day.  Well, if you want to get even more technical, we’ve been doing this schooling thing all summer long.  I’m going to try to give at least weekly digests of what we’ve accomplished in an effort to help us keep track of where we are and where we’re headed.  Just some quick bullets.  If we do something really exciting, I’ll try to post pics and more details.

In general:

  • Planned out our weekly structure – basically, we’re going to be insanely busy
  • Boys had their first piano lessons with a dear friend; I’m anxious to see how this turns out. My feeling is that L is going to LOVE this!
  • Also going to start Tae Kwon Do again this week.
  • Decided to explore caves for a while and all things cave-related – going to watch Planet Earth on caves; do cave paintings; make our own caves; learn about animals that do and don’t live in caves; visit a cave; cave formations


  • counting & adding
  • pattern recognition
  • math problems on window
  • worked with blocks to model addition
  • quickly identified HI, TX, and VA on the globe – three places we’ve been talking about a lot lately


  • pattern recognition – he totally *gets* this; it was a great joy to see him really grasp a concept
  • opposites – introduction to the concept and then we went around the house modeling opposites
  • recognition of alphabet and practiced writing letters
  • alphabet puzzle


  • Right now, feeling overwhelmed. In a society where we’re so programmed to measure things, this is a little bit difficult to measure and therefore, it’s hard for me to comprehend our progress.
  • L still has a tough time remembering his letters. I think he just gets overwhelmed and gives up.
  • T still claims he does not like to read. We keep reminding him that if he wants to learn more and more about butterflies, the sooner he can read on his own, the easier it will be for him to get information.
  • Trying to do this, be a wife, raise another baby, and run two businesses is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do in my life. I’m so thankful for my husband who is right there in the trenches, too.


  • I am SO proud that L took so well to piano.  No pressure, but I so desperately want him to have something that’s all his own.  His big bro is such a strong personality that sometimes, L get’s lost in the T Devil’s dust cloud. Music just may be his thing.
  • I started this blog. Success!
  • T is starting to get those sight words more quickly and math seems to be a breeze for him.
  • Went to the Ranch this weekend and explored the plants/land/animals out there. It was good for the boys to see how much of an affect the drought has had on our area as opposed to the rain out by the Ranch.
  • We looked at the kindergarten TEKS for grins.  Yes, we’re doing the right thing.
  • We were able to make out a rough schedule.

Goals for next week:

  • Would like to get the boys to read more to their sister.
  • Boys can take more of a lead on their daily tasks.
  • Want to find a better way to display their artwork in the house.
  • We should go over our family poster with the boys (I made this for my husband last year after we had decided that we were going to homeschool).  I think they need to know why we’re doing what we’re doing.
  • Go swimming to keep those skills fresh!

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